David Wain and Ken Marino have collaborated consistently for the past 23 years. From television projects to feature films, the writing partners have created some of the most memorable (and bizarre) characters of the past two decades. The latest entry into their world of signature humor, “Wanderlust,” was born out of a six-day marathon writing session behind closed doors.
MoviesOnline sat down at a press conference with Wain and Marino to talk about their longtime collaboration and why it continues to work so well. They told us what it was like watching Paul Rudd let loose in front of a mirror and go deep into the crazy reality of a guy psyching himself up, how they decided how much nudity was enough, why they enjoyed shooting on location in Georgia, and what Judd Apatow’s input was to the process. Wain also revealed the “Bizarro” director’s cut he has planned for the DVD, and Marino explained why he enjoys writing and playing both outrageous and subdued characters and what’s up with the “Party Down” movie.
DW: Ken is on his way and will be here in a moment.
Q: Can you talk about him? Is there anything you can say before he gets here?
DW: Yes, you should be warned that he is a real asshole. The character in the film is just him.
[Ken Marino joins the press conference]
DW: Here he is. Just speak of the devil.
KM: Oh my gosh! Hello. Wow! Hello.
DW: We’re happy to have you guys here. Thank you for coming to the Wanderlust Universal Pictures marketing event.
Q: My question is for Ken. I love seeing you play these outrageous characters…
DW: (interrupting) You first.
Q: Do you enjoy writing those characters or do you equally enjoy writing the more subdued characters, too?
KM: Next question.
DW: Ken, the question is do you enjoy writing the characters or do you enjoy reading the more subdued characters as well. Ken, go ahead.
KM: I enjoy playing both of them. It’s fun to play an outrageous character like Rick and to be an asshole and not have to worry about being likeable. Actually, it’s the opposite. You get to go as far as you want, and the more unlikeable you are, the better you’re portraying the part, I think. It’s fun to play both.
DW: Okay, we can’t do anymore questions. We have to go.
KM: Gee! Wow! Does that answer your question?
Q: Yes, on the writing side, do you enjoy writing it as much as you enjoy playing it and do you enjoy writing the other types of characters too?
KM: I enjoy writing all the different types of characters. It’s fun to play variations of characters and different types of people. That’s the fun of acting, so I like playing the bigger, outrageous kinds of ones and writing in that direction, and then also doing the more subtle, subdued stuff.
Q: If you know you’re going to do a movie about a commune setting, when do you decide how much nudity you’re going to have in the movie?
DW: When we do the final lock picture, like a few weeks ago, that’s when we decide.
KM: Yeah. But the first thing we do is we lock ourselves in a room for seven days nude and we write.
DW: We just study each other.
KM: We just look at each other and see how God made us in all our glory.
DW: Suffice it to say, there was a lot more nudity that was shot. We knew that we were shooting the maximum knowing that we would go into the edit room and figure out how much is just the right amount and how much is too much.
Q: Is there a director’s cut that likely will end up on the DVD?
DW: There’s actually on the DVD something called “The Bizarro Cut” which is an entire version of the movie made up of almost all material that’s not in the movie.
KM: That goes a lot further.
DW: It’s going a lot further throughout in every way.
Q: One of the themes is this movie is open community and free love, do either of you think that open relationships can work?
DW: That open relationships can work? Yes, I do, and I would like you to tell my wife that.
KM: I do not and I’d like you to tell my wife that.
DW: Right. I do not. That’s what I meant. I do not. I do not. I keep forgetting which one it is. Do not.
Q: That’s something that seems to be a fantasy for a lot of men in particular. In this movie, it works the opposite.
DW: Well I think it’s the idea that Paul thinks of himself as more daring and progressive and open minded than he really is, and that’s just probably the truth of a lot of us. I like to fancy myself as someone who would do something as radical and daring as they did – to move into a commune and live a different kind of life – but I think at the core many of us are more traditional than we would like to think of ourselves and human nature has its vote and overcomes a lot of our more daring…
KM: David, wake up! David! But we definitely wanted to play with the idea of okay, so if you go to a free love commune and the guy is pushing for it, what happens when the wife actually does it? How would he react, especially since he was the cheerleader for it? That was the world we wanted to play with and the scenario we wanted to play with.
Q: For them it seemed like it wasn’t a choice they were actually okay with.
DW: Yes, yes. Was that a question or were you just kind of putting a period on what we were talking about.
KM: It was just a follow-up. It was a button to the topic. It was a good wrap up to the topic.
DW: You just kind of summed it up.
KM : And it sort of left the palate clean for the next question, if there is one.
DW: Yeah, it’s almost like a little sorbet of some sort.
Q: How many takes did it take to chase Paul Rudd down the street when he hopped in your car?
KM: We did four takes and I was dying because I was in those… What kind of shoes?
KM: No, not Birkenstocks. They were like Dockers or something. I had no socks on and then I just ran and I couldn’t hear them yelling “Cut!” so that’s why I just kept running. But it actually turned out nice because then we just used that whole take.
DW: (laughs) That’s right. I’m losing it. I’m a little bit under the weather today is the thing, but I’m very excited to see you guys.
Q: How long do you let Paul Rudd go psyching himself up in a mirror to get that performance?
DW: In that scene, we had a script of what that monologue was supposed to be and he did those words that we wrote and then he just kept going, and so much of what makes that scene so special is I have to give Paul the credit for just going deeper into some crazy reality of the guy who’s psyching himself up and then eventually just trying to make faces in a mirror.
KM: The shorter answer is we let him go as long as he wanted to go. He felt it out.
DW: We felt it out, but then at a certain point we sent Jordan Peele into the room to be like “Uh what?” It was much, much longer than what’s on the screen. But we only did that a couple of times. He really was inspired that night. It was the first night of shooting that we did that. We were at the end of the day and running out of time so we didn’t think of it as the earth shattering scene of the movie. We just thought it was kind of a transitional moment and then Paul rose …
KM: …rose to the occasion and elevated the material.
DW: …elevated the material.
Q: Did you have a lot of trouble keeping from laughing during that scene?
DW: Always. I think I ruined numerous takes throughout the shoot by laughing because it was so funny.
Q: How much does Judd Apatow have input into either the script or being on set?
DW: He was helpful input into every part of the process. He helped us streamline and figure out the emotional core of our script. He helped us with casting. He helped us with developing alternate material and options when we were shooting. And then, he helped us figure out the best ways in editing. So, he kind of contributed throughout and in the marketing.
Q: When you have that group of people that you’ve worked with in the past, how does that affect your writing and development of the story? Do you know what they can do or are they involved?
DW: We largely wrote the script without specific actors in mind with the exception of possibly the Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux characters. It was more after we’d rewritten it, then we bring in all these people to be on the team. Every actor we work with, we work collaboratively with, and we get their ideas for the character, what their arc might be, what their look is and jokes and scenes and ideas. We just try to take good ideas from wherever we can find them.
KM: But it’s always nice to work with the people you worked with in the past because there’s a shorthand and there’s a trust, and we know they’re going to bring something fresh and new to the part and the characters that we created.
Q: Do you base your characters on real life people or…?
DW: I would say mostly not really. It was more just invention with I’m sure inspirations in part from people we might have met at one point or another.
KM: Yeah, I agree with that. I think that we just write these outlandish characters or these outrageous characters that we push in different directions and then we get somebody to play that part. It’s interesting because when we would audition people for certain parts, you’d see how certain people would bring the humanity to these outrageous characters like Wayne. Wayne could have been played in a very gross way, but what was great about Joe’s take on it was he was this sweet, kind guy who was very innocent and likeable. Knowing that Joe could play it that way, that’s the way that we wanted to go with it.
DW: The one character that was based on a real life person was Ken’s character. It was based on Ken.
KM: Right. I’m a real dick, a real asshole.
Q: How much did the entire story change from the first draft to the final cut?
DW: Quite a bit. The basic idea of when they get to the commune and what happens at the commune in the broadest of strokes was in that very first draft we wrote in the first week that we worked on it. But the set up of where they came from and then what happens in act three was dramatically changed in early drafts. In fact, the George character went down to Boca Raton to be with his parents after he leaves the commune, and there’s a whole other set of storylines involving Rick and the cleaning woman and a whole bunch of things that happen that were completely thrown out.
KM: Almost the second half of the movie was him living in the condo with his parents.
DW: And we had a lot of different iterations of the opening of the movie where they were in Cleveland. They were in New York. They weren’t married. They were married. He was a shoe salesman. They were real estate salesmen. It was a lot of different themes that we played around with before we landed with where we did.
Q: Can you talk about how your initial collaboration came about and why it still works so well?
KM: We met in college.
DW: We were just friends first. We met in the same dormitory at NYU. And then, when we started working together doing comedy, along with all the rest of us in “The State,” it just seemed like we all were really vibed with each other. And then, our specific collaboration was just an outgrowth of that.
KM: Yeah. When we wrote for “The State,” everybody would break off and write in groups or individually. Dave and I tended to find each other and write stuff and enjoyed doing it, and then, over the course of the many years that we’ve known each other, when we work together, we enjoy that time together where we create things and make each other laugh. It’s nice and so …
DW: It’s a great way to make a living.
Q: How did the writing work on “Party Down”?
KM: I was merely an actor on “Party Down” when John Enbom and Rob Thomas wrote and created those stories and Dan Etheridge and I think Paul Rudd as well. So I just showed up and got to say their funny, funny lines.
DW: And I had no involvement in “Party Down” except for directing one episode.
Q: They used to have a commune up in Topanga Canyon called Elysium Fields. Were you aware of that?
KM: I feel like at one point I saw that online. I don’t know, but I think, but I don’t recall.
Q: So you guys never actually visited there?
KM: We didn’t go to that place, no. Is it closed now? We went to a couple. We went to one down in Vista?
DW: Yeah, might as well not say it.
KM: I don’t know. I was heading down towards San Diego. Anyway, we went to one down there and then we went to …
DW: …one in Georgia, not too far from where we shot.
Q: What was your experience like shooting in Georgia?
DW: I loved it. The movie happened to take place in Georgia anyway and then, of course, it’s one of the big tax rebate states where people are shooting a lot of movies. We had a great local crew from there, and then we were in the beautiful mountains northeast of Atlanta, which were just stunning and wonderful to be in. We were in a little town called Clarkesville. We got to know a lot of the people in the town. And then we spent a fair amount of time also shooting in Atlanta which was also really lovely. My thought about what Atlanta was before we went was more like Rick’s house in the movie, and we learned a lot about what a cool place it was.
KM: It’s a beautiful city and a beautiful part of the country.
Q: How does naked casting work? Do you have to be there for those or do you just leave it up to the casting director?
DW: Basically, there’s a hamper where everyone leaves their clothes. So, we get there in the morning. We put our clothes in. And then, every actor comes in and leaves their clothes. And then, we all look at each other, and then at the end of the day we put our clothes back on and we leave.
KM: The big naked run at the end, a lot of those people were stunt people.
DW: They all were stunt people.
KM: Because they had to be running from a moving car.
DW: Our amazing stunt coordinator, Jack Gill, basically called on some of his friends who were all shapes and sizes. We said we don’t want pretty people. We want real looking people.
KM: Pretty, but real looking.
DW: And he said to them all “Hey, you want to run nude?” and they were like “Sure!”
KM: And so, it was kind of awesome to watch these stunts being done by stunt people completely nude.
Q: You joked about being a dick in real life, but is it actually being a nice guy that lets you unleash and let loose in those characters?
KM: I’d like to think of myself as a nice guy and they would disagree, but yeah, perhaps. It’s fun to play the asshole. It’s an easy part to play because you get to just go wherever you want to go and you don’t have to apologize for anything. You know what I mean? The point is to offend on some level.
DW: Every time I see the movie, I just marvel and laugh at what a jerk this character is, like the completely unprovoked rage that comes from nothing.
KM: I was laughing last night because at one point I say in a section of the movie “Can I get a word in edgewise?” and all I’ve been doing for three scenes is talking as much as I possibly could. But no, it’s always fun to play those types of characters.
Q: There’s a morning after shot in one of the trailers with Jennifer and a bunch of ladies in a bed. Why did that scene not make it into the movie?
DW: We shot so many scenes that are either going to a certain place whether just for story or pathos. There are so many scenes that we shot that for various reasons didn’t fit into the final cut and that’s one of them. You’ll see them on the DVD.
Q: The Bizarro.
DW: The Bizarro.
KM: The Bizarro cut.
DW: The Bizarro cut will be rich with stuff like that.
Q: I thought at the end that they ended up back at the commune and they just installed doors, but the people that I went to see the movie with weren’t sure that was where it went. Is that where they are at the end?
DW: No, they live in New York. They’re back in New York in Brooklyn running the publishing company that publishes Wayne’s book. So that’s what happens.
Q: Are the rest of the people still at the commune?
KM: Yes, the rest of the people are still at the commune. Justin is no longer at the commune.
DW: Justin was outed for his scheme to take down the commune and so therefore he’s left and the commune has been saved. It doesn’t matter. (laughs)
KM: In the movie, we don’t see where Justin winds up. It just ends with him being kicked out of the commune.
Q: Can you imagine where he would have wandered off to next?
KM: We had several different theories.
DW: Check out the Bizarro cut, you’ll see some of those.
KM: You’ll see a lot of different places where Justin might have landed.
Q: Is the “Party Down” movie still happening?
KM: I know they’re writing a script and I know that they want it to happen and I know that there are people that are interested in making it happen. That’s about all I know about it. I mean, when I’m on set, then I will know exactly.
“Wanderlust” opens in theaters on February 24, 2012.